DAVID ROVICS: Behind the Barricades: The Best of David Rovics: CD

Feb 21, 2008

It may sound odd to hear that I can’t think of a single album I’ve reviewed for this issue which is more punk than this one, especially considering that this is one person with an acoustic guitar and some bitter, scabrous humor. It may seem even more unusual when you consider that this is a folk album in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger. Then again, I’ve always had a fondness for folk songs. At a theoretical level, they are usually one of the purest expressions of DIY. At a practical level, they usually express the most radical politics because they can embody the voice of one person. I don’t think it’s really too surprising that The Weakerthans, one of the more folk-inclined bands currently recording, also express some of the more sensitively crafted political ideas in music. Rovics, a musician who I wasn’t familiar with, works in a similar vein, although his songs are far more overt and really don’t require any parsing at all. These songs are about as subtle as a bag of hammers because, as a rule, folk music doesn’t want to be vague or misinterpreted. Back to the songs, it’s fair to say that they’re blunt. You can’t really misread them or misunderstand them. They’re pretty progressive – or, if you prefer, left-wing. They all seem to have a sad sort of black humor; as we all know, it’s fairly easy to laugh at horror these days, probably because we’ve all seen so much of it. However, there’s also hope here and perhaps that’s the thing that most draws me to this record… while Rovics isn’t pulling any punches, it’s because he’s using these hard-hitting songs to help shape a better future and, as sad as it is to say, it’s highly unlikely that such a future can be built without a brawl or two.

 –scott (AK Press)

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